Committing to a Stable Future for Lang
Monday, April 19th, 2010
Since 2004, Lang has lost three deans: Mary Rawlinson, who left abruptly, Jonathan Vietch, who left smoothly, and now Neil Gordon, leaving only five weeks after a robust vote of confidence from the Lang faculty. Such turnover is not unheard of, especially at a college as young as Lang, but in conjunction with Kerrey's departure, Lang's future is increasingly cloudy.
It is the administration’s responsibility—dean, provost, and president alike—to keep academic leadership consistent, especially in the face of a young, evolving college, one for which they have big plans. As talk builds of Lang being combined with NSSR, Lang’s future is more unpredictable than a mid-April forecast in Manhattan.
While other colleges of Lang's size and age are in flux, their administrations have managed to stay relatively stable. Sarah Lawrence's two most recent deans served fairly short terms—the current dean has only been in place since 2009, and her predecessor left after two years—but they follow a 22-year deanship. So, too, with NYU's dean of Liberal Studies, who has served since 2004, Reed College's dean, who has served since 1997, and Brown's dean of the College, who has served since 2006. So why do we have yet to see this kind of commitment at Lang?
How can this college, let alone the university, become a top-tier institution if no one stays long enough to keep us on track? How can it attract the best faculty, the best students—even the best donors—to elevate us to national status?
The turnover at the top leaves us with an essential question. The ongoing debate we have about Lang and The New School's direction is worthwhile. But how can it continue to be a debate worth having if we don’t have permanent leaders to see it through?
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